Who doesn’t love taking a vacation? You get to sleep in, eat delicious food, and enjoy the freedom to do absolutely nothing or absolutely anything with your day. Ah, living the dream! But sometimes a traditional vacation just isn’t in the cards (like this year thanks to COVID-19), or maybe it isn’t in the budget for you. If you fall into that camp, a staycation is a great alternative that can give you the rest you deserve without breaking the bank.
What Is the Difference Between a Vacation and a Staycation?
Just like it sounds—a staycation means you’ll be staying at home (or in town) while on “vacation.” Think of it as a way to “get away from it all” by going nowhere.
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One of the biggest differences between a staycation and a vacation? Yep, you guessed it—the price tag. Although it’s possible to take a cheap vacation, they’re known for being ex-pen-sive. Did you know the average travel budget is about $2,800?1 That’s a lot of dough to drop on vacation. And you can probably tack on some more dollars if it’s a family of five. Yikes! But the good news is, you don’t have to spend that much money. A staycation is an awesome (and much cheaper) alternative.
Why Do You Need a Staycation?
Because we all need a break! But that doesn’t mean you have to bust your budget to do it (that’s the opposite of relaxing).
If you’re smack-dab in the middle of working the Baby Steps and wish you could swing a vacation, a staycation is a great way to have a good time while spending next to nothing. And these days, a lot of people don’t want to be near the vacation crowds anyway, so bringing that rest and relaxation to your own house sounds a whole lot better.
How Do You Take a Staycation?
Treat it like a normal vacation! When you go on a week-long vacation out of state, you don’t take work with you, and you enjoy time spent relaxing and making memories with family. When you take a staycation, do the same thing.
It’s important to actually use your paid time off from work and not work from home just because you’re at home. Don’t check in or worry about what you’re missing at the office. If you truly want to relax, then treat this like a typical vacation and leave the realities of life behind. Turn off all your devices and limit the TV binge-watching—this is your chance to focus on quality time with no interruptions and enjoy not having anything looming on the to-do list. You’re on staycation, after all!
How Do You Make Your House a Staycation?
One of the best things about going on a “real” vacation is that you have a change of scenery. When you’re on vacation somewhere else, relaxing comes easy. But when you’re trying to bring all the feelings of vacation to your own house, you’re going to have to put in a little extra effort.
Turning your humble abode into a staycation haven is going to look different for everyone, but here are a few things to help get you inspired:
Get out the nice sheets.
Add a vase of flowers to your kitchen or entryway table.
Put the books you’ve been meaning to read on your nightstand or coffee table (so you’ll actually get around to reading them).
Live in your robe, yoga pants or flip-flops (anything that says “rest” or “vacation life” to you).
Live outside as much as you can.
Don’t turn on the news or pull up your go-to news app (heck, after these last few months we all went through, we can use a break from the news!).
Put snacks and drinks out in visible places (like you’d see in a hotel room or Airbnb).
Eat off of the fancy dishes.
Play relaxing tunes in the background.
1. Take a nap.
We know—what a boring one to start the list off with. But it’s easy, it’s free, and it makes a world of difference. So start your staycation off right with a little rest and relaxation in the form of a nice, long nap. How many times do you get the chance to close your eyes and catch some zzz’s in the middle of the day? You can even take a snooze outside—just don’t do it without wearing some sunblock or you’ll be sorry.
2. Have a spa day.
It might not be as glamorous as a real day at the spa, but you can still make your own home feel like a retreat. It can be as glamorous as decking out your whole face with a moisturizing face mask and cucumber slices or as simple as just soaking your feet in Epsom salt. Whatever you do, just focus on using that time to relax.
3. Take a mini road trip.
Need a little bit of adventure during staycation? Gas prices are crazy cheap right now, so get out of the house and take a road trip to a spot just an hour or two away. Enjoy the day by exploring new sights, eating at new restaurants, and shaking off your stir-crazy ways with hitting the open road.
4. Read a good book.
How many books do you have collecting dust on the shelf? Sure, you’re always wanting to read one, but there never seems to be enough time in the day. Now’s your chance to dive into a good read—or several! Set up a hammock in your backyard or lay out a blanket under a tree and unwind with a good book.
5. Get outside.
Take a hike in the great outdoors or enjoy a peaceful walk in a nearby park. Pack a lunch for the trip and enjoy a picnic with your family, or even grab your running shoes to work in some exercise!
Did you know walking actually helps to reduce stress hormones in your body? Just getting outside for some fresh air and moving your body can really help you relax and unwind. So get that circulation going and spend your staycation stress free!
6. Explore your city.
Are there any historic sites or popular tourist spots you’ve never been to? Most of the time, we’re all so busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday life that we don’t get a chance to take in the things that make our own local area pretty great. Use this staycation to take in the sights and sounds of your city! Get out there and visit free museums, bookstores and that coffee shop you’re always meaning to check out.
Just make sure to do your research before you head out to double-check that wherever you plan on going is actually open again.
7. Camp out in the backyard.
Pitch a tent, light the fire pit, and make s’mores while creating fun family memories. Bonus points if you tell spooky stories and sing camp songs around the fire. When it’s time to call it a night, have everyone crawl into the tent and sleep under the stars (or you can bring the gang back inside to sleep in your comfortable beds too—we won’t judge).
8. Bring the water park to you.
You don’t need access to a pool to cool off. You can get way more creative than that. Remember Slip ’N Slides? Set one up in your backyard and get ready to beat the heat. Of course, you can always opt for a $15 inflatable pool for the kids (or you!) or spend an afternoon having a water balloon fight. And never underestimate the power of the sprinklers. Creating your own DIY backyard water park instead of the real deal can save you about $50 per person!
9. Have a movie night.
You don’t have to leave your house to catch a good flick. Rent a movie—or even better, stream one for free. Skipping the traditional ticket and concessions at the theater can easily save you $15–20 a person. This is the perfect time to tackle a marathon of movie trilogies (Back to the Future, anyone?) or introduce your kids to iconic classics for the first time. But don’t forget the snacks! Grab some popcorn, chips and candy from the dollar store, and you have all the makings for a great (and really cheap) movie night.
10. Stay somewhere new.
Before we tackle this one, let’s be clear: It’s okay to stay at your house during your staycation (and it saves major money not having to pay for a hotel or bed-and-breakfast). But if you do want to switch it up, check in to a local hotel or Airbnb for a night or two. It’s amazing how getting away to a new spot in your hometown can feel so refreshing. All you know is you’re staying the night in some new digs—is it in the Bahamas or just down the street? Who knows! It’s somewhere different, and that’s all that matters.
11. Take up a DIY project.
Do you have a DIY project that you haven’t been able to get to? Use this free time on your hands to tackle it! You’ll feel accomplished and have something to show for it by the end of your staycation. Check your local museum or art studio to see if pottery, painting or woodworking classes are being offered.
12. Plan a game night.
Monopoly, Battleship, Clue—these games never go out of style! Dust off the board games and invite your family and friends over to enjoy the simple joy of a game night. Need to add a new game to the rotation? Check out Act Your Wage!—the first player to become debt-free wins the game. And if that sounds a little too much like real life (like if you’re laser focused on becoming debt-free right now), just play Monopoly instead. We won’t be mad.
13. Watch a theater production.
We know what you’re thinking—how in this COVID world is that kind of thing possible? The magic of the internet, that’s how. BroadwayHD is streaming a ton of Broadway shows (everything from Oklahoma! to Romeo and Juliet). And with a seven-day free trial, that’s plenty of time to watch a few things while on staycation.
14. Go bowling.
Family bonding and bowling go hand in hand! And going to a bowling alley during the middle of the week or at off-peak times can be surprisingly cheap. A lot of bowling alleys even let kids bowl for free. Check out the deals your local alley has and strike up a little friendly competition.
15. Go out for a special meal or have it delivered.
Some people find cooking relaxing, but for others, it’s like a one-way ticket to stress-out city. No matter where you fall, it’s important to give yourself a break and take some time for a special meal that you don’t have to cook. Swing by that restaurant downtown that you’ve always wondered about, or have food delivered from your favorite burger joint.
16. Go canoeing.
If you live within close driving distance of a river or another body of water, get out there on a canoe or a paddleboard—maybe even a surfboard if you’re near the beach (lucky!).
17. Have a date night.
Even if you’re in the middle of a family staycation with two toddlers, you can still carve out time for you and your spouse to sneak in an inexpensive date. The real tricky part is going to be finding a sitter to watch the kids, but it’s doable! Ask family or friends if they wouldn’t mind babysitting for an evening so you and your spouse can have a nice dinner. You can even sweeten the deal by offering to watch their kids sometime too.
How to Budget for Your Staycation
1. Make a budget.
If you know you can only spend $200 on a staycation for your family, that’s okay! Just know what your budget is and stick to it. There are plenty of free and super cheap ways to make memories with your family (remember that list we just gave you?). You don’t need to have a huge budget to have a good time.
2. Have a plan.
All right, now that you know how much you can spend, make a list of some of the things you want to do. You can even number things by priority and what’s most important to your family. Is that hiking trail and beautiful waterfall nearby calling your name? Then put that at the top of the list to make sure that it happens.
3. Check the prices.
Spoiler alert: This part can be a real shell shock sometimes—like when you find out how much taking your entire family to Topgolf costs you. Wowzer. But the great thing here is that you can research each of the ideas on your list and adjust things where you need to.
Here’s a pro tip: You can keep things balanced by tossing in at least one splurge and rounding out the rest of your list with free or super cheap activities. That way, you feel like you’re doing the extra cool stuff, but it still fits in your budget.
4. Add up the total cost.
If you find out your laundry list of staycation ideas adds up to being over budget, don’t worry. Look for ways you can bring those costs down with coupons and seasonal deals. Or swap some ideas for similar activities but ones that are cheaper (scratch Topgolf for some putt-putt). That’s the beauty of having a plan ahead of time—you can move things around as you need to without wreaking havoc on your budget.
A staycation is pretty budget friendly, but be sure you do make a budget beforehand for what you want to spend. Unexpected costs add up quickly, and you don’t want to deal with that kind of stress on your staycation! Download our budgeting app, EveryDollar, so you don’t overspend while on your staycation. And then try some of these creative ways to be thrifty without losing the fun factor.